Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Grow.
Leslie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I went to photography school where I learned the fundamentals of the camera and lighting for different subjects like portraits, fashion, and product. After graduating, I didn’t know what I wanted to photograph, so I tried everything and quickly learned that I did not enjoy photographing people.
Once I figured that out, I started focusing my time on inanimate objects like jewelry, shoes, clothing, handbags, beauty products, electronics, etc. I interned with some product photographers in NYC and Macy’s in-house photo studio. I learned a lot and started a hi-end product photography business with my husband, B+G Studios. The work that we do can involve a lot of compositing and retouching in post-production. It’s a slow and meticulous process from start to finish so a lot of times we’re only producing one image from a shoot.
So how did I transition to food? A couple of years ago I became really interested in cooking. I watched endless hours of cooking shows and engrossed myself with cookbooks & food magazines trying to cook something other than plain pasta. It dawned on me one day that some of the cookbooks I was referencing had terrible photos. I did a couple of shoots with some of the meals and really enjoyed the variety of images I was getting.
Now, I’m focusing more of my time on food photography and working with a team of food & prop stylists who are masters at their craft so that we can create beautiful images together.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Has it been a smooth road? Absolutely not! There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I’d say any artist in this business has experienced this. Without struggles or challenges, how do you grow or push yourself to get better? When the emails aren’t flowing in, it’s easy to fall in the mind trap of questioning if your work is good or not—I’m guilty of that! But I’ve learned over the years I need to utilize the downtime for test shoots, either to update my portfolio or practice a different lighting setup that I wouldn’t normally try on a paid client shoot.
As much as I’d love to be just a photographer, I wear A LOT of hats in my business and find it hard to balance them all on my own. I’m the production coordinator, operations manager, bookkeeper, accountant, PR/marketing manager, retoucher, sometimes the food/prop stylist if the client doesn’t have a budget, along with being my own assistant & digital tech.
When I first started out in food photography, I said yes to literally every job that came in no matter the price and often times it was “for exposure.” That’s fine in the beginning to gain experience working on-set with a client, but the reality is that the exposure usually doesn’t turn into anything and won’t pay the bills. The biggest struggle is knowing your self-worth and not letting the client take advantage of that. The market has become oversaturated (especially with everyone being a food blogger) and incredibly competitive. Companies are wanting more content for less money without sacrificing production value.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’m a food photographer living and working out of my studio in Los Angeles. I mostly shoot with studio lighting made to look natural. Clients will often request to shoot only in natural light. I think it’s because they’re thinking of terrible on-camera flash look. But then I’ll ask them to pull an image from my website, so I can see what they’re wanting, and it’s always a natural feel lit by strobe.
My work has been described as colorful, minimalistic, detailed, light and airy. I want the viewer to see textures of food like they wouldn’t normally see, feel like they are part of the scene, and entice them into wanting the dish. I know I’m doing my job right when someone says “You’re making my mouth water!”.
While I wish I’d assisted more after I graduated school, I’m proud that I’ve figured out a lot of things on my own mostly through trial & error, tons of googling, and practice! I’m a perfectionist, so I’ll go at something until I get it just right.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Being successful is different for everyone. For me, I don’t look at the financial numbers as a marker. Yes, this is a good indicator to make sure I’m charging appropriately. Instead, I look at the growth in my work and if I’ve done everything I could to land my dream job/client. I want to create an enjoyable experience so that they come back to me every time.
- Website: www.lesliegrow.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @lesliegrow